Monday, 13 October 2008

Panjab - Land of the Five Rivers


Just as sometime back I had an urge to see the Narmada, last week I wanted to sit by the Sutlej. Of course, my poem 'Malwa Express' (1999) written enroute in the Malwa Express from Jammu Tawi to Delhi did speak of the River Beas and 'the Satluj at Phillaur' . . . somehow I wanted to renew my ties with that part of me which had written those lines.

So I took the night train to Nangal Dam (NLDM) which got me in at 0715 am the next day.* Willing hands received me at the station. We saw Nangal and then drove to Bhakra 11 kms away.
The river Satluj flows east to west originating in Uttar Kashi. It is dammed first at Bhakra (Himachal) and then 11 kms down river at Nangal in Panjab. Both dams are closely guarded. The story is told that after it was constructed (1948-63), a woman was seen coming often to visit the dams. Suspicions were confirmed when it was discovered that she was from Pakistan and was knitting the layout of the dam.

The 5 rivers in Panjab are the Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Chenab and Jhelum. All are the tributaries of the Indus. In Chamba I wrote about the Ravi and in Srinagar I saw the Jhelum.

Panj-ab

-brian mendonca

Silver and gold
Holiest of holies
Thrice the Qutub
refuse at 1680 feet
Varjit Shetra
A lady knits at Nangal
Panch-sheel
at the Satluj Sadan
Canals irrigate
the fields of Panjab
3 rotis of jowar
langar at Anandpur Sahib
Panch pyaare, Punj-ab
Keertan near Anandpur fort
Sohni-Mahliwal
Ranjit Singh
3 sardar school boys
gulp down golgappas.

(Nangal-Anandpur Sahib)
8 Oct 2008)

Glossary
silver and gold: The gurudwaras of Anandpur Sahib (see image) and 'Golden Temple' Amritsar in Punjab; thrice the Qutub: The Bhakra dam (see image above) is the largest concrete dam in the world and is of a height which is 3 times that of the Qutub Minar, Delhi; varjit shetra: (Hindi) 'Prohibited Area'; Panch-sheel: Chou En Lai and Indira Gandhi signed the Panchsheel agreement at the Satluj Sadan, Nangal; Panch-pyare: In 1699 at Anandpur Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh constituted the Khalsa by asking for volunteers to join him. When one by one, 5 persons did, he took each into his tent and emerged to the crowd with a bloodied sword. This was to test the fealty of the volunteers; Sohni-Mahliwal: legend of Panjab wherein Sohni a potter's daughter falls in love with Mirza Baig a wealthy trader. Reduced to poverty buying pots, simply to be able to see Sohni's face, Mirza becomes a 'mahliwal' (cowherd).


*4553 Delhi-Una Himachal Express

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